LESS EQUALS PEACE; British Architect John Pawson, the Master of Minimal Rooms, Features in a New Design Museum Exhibition, Reports Corinne Julius

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Byline: Corinne Julius

FOR the last decade in design, pattern and ornamentation have been the order of the day. Minimalism came to be seen as outmoded and barren.

A new exhibition at the Design Museum, John Pawson Plain Space, which examines the work of architect John Pawson, may lead to a re-evaluation. Pawson is frequently labelled a "minimalist" but essentially he is extremely rigorous in his design process, reducing and editing his buildings and product designs to create visual clarity, simplicity, understatement and calm.

Pawson's architecture plays with light and how it enters a space. Rectilinear window openings, often seemingly rising straight out of the ground, project light on to blank walls. There are no obvious shelves or cupboards; simple blocks of wood serve as tables and seats. Few if any possessions are on show and the colour palette is monochrome. His rooms might not accommodate average family life, but in a busy, cluttered existence, his spaces offer tranquillity.

The Design Museum's director, Deyan Sudjic, curator Gemma Curtin, and Pawson himself, have included a fullscale room in the show. It contains nothing but two benches but gives a sense of being inside Pawson's architecture.

The exhibition strives to show not only Pawson's work, but also his design process to help visitors engage with his work in different ways, and while it is not a retrospective, it does bring together themes in his output. One of the most important of these is his use of materials, which while not necessarily luxurious, are always of extremely high quality. The show includes actual architectural elements in stone, bronze, wood and metal, taken from a range of his buildings, including The Baron House in Sweden and his own home, the Pawson House, in west London. …


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